Colette Additional Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

ph_0111201534-Colette.jpg Colette Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette (kaw-leht), one of the most famous French women writers of her era, was born in the Burgundian village of Saint-Sauveur-en-Puisaye, where she and her brother, Léo (born 1868), grew up in a provincial country house full of books and animals, surrounded by a magnificent garden. Sido, Colette’s mother and the principal influence on her life, had a vast knowledge of plants and animals. In this atmosphere Colette developed a sensitivity toward nature, a quality she always associated both with innocence and with her mother’s home.

In 1890 the family moved to Châtillon-Coligny. There Colette met Henri Gauthier-Villars, or Willy, a bohemian publicist and raconteur whom she married in May, 1893. Some scholars have postulated that Colette’s life and writing were dominated by the opposing forces embodied by Sido, who represented innocence, and those embodied by Willy, who represented experience.

In 1900 her first novel was published as Claudine at School under her husband’s pen name, Willy. Soon thereafter Willy began the practice of locking Colette in her room for four hours each day with an assigned number of pages to write. In 1904 she published Creature Conversations, her first book written under the name Colette Willy, a pseudonym she used until 1923. The book, composed of dialogues between her cat and her dog, was the first of several works based on animal themes.

Problems in her marriage, depicted by Colette in My Apprenticeships, led to the couple’s separation in 1906 and to their divorce in 1910. In 1906 Colette began performing in music halls to earn a living. A fictionalized chronicle of those years can be found in The Vagabond, The Shackle, and...

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(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

The four stages in the life of Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette are marked by her close associations with, first, her mother and, subsequently, each of her three husbands. Her devotion to her mother, along with the tensions that existed between them, is recorded at length in Sido (1929; English translation, 1953), the title being the name by which Adèle-Eugénie-Sidonie Landoy Colette was known. Captain Jules-Joseph Colette was Sido’s second husband and the father of Colette. He died in 1905, Sido in 1912. Sido was strong of will and firm in her convictions and prejudices. Colette recalls both her strong reactions to challenge and her gentle hand braiding her daughter’s hair in a setting of peace and serenity. During her childhood and adolescence, Colette developed a poet’s appreciation of her rural environment in Burgundy and her private garden. She was twenty years old in 1893 when she married a friend of the family, Henri Gauthier-Villars, known as “Willy” both professionally and personally. It was with Willy that her literary career began.

With Willy’s guidance, Colette produced writings that were published under Willy’s name. These included the four Claudine novels, which would appear as a single book in 1923, and two other books. Eventually, she achieved enough independence to publish under the name Colette Willy and, after her final divorce in 1907, under the single name Colette. Willy’s dominance had contributed less to Colette’s dissatisfaction with him, and divorce from him, than his infidelities and sexual excesses had. Following her separation from Willy, Colette lived for about six years with Mathilde de Morny, called “Missy,” a woman of the aristocracy who had been the Marquise de Belbeuf. She and Missy enjoyed a homosexual relationship and a penchant for participation in theatrical mimes, in one of which Colette’s...

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(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

For a woman who was to become something of a symbol of feminism, Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette was born into the most unlikely surroundings. Saint-Sauveur-en-Puisaye was a small village in Burgundy, and little Sidonie grew up as a country girl—she retained a strong Burgundian accent until her death. Her mother, whose tremendous influence on Colette’s life cannot be overestimated, was Adèle-Sidonie Landoy Robineau-Duclos, referred to by her second daughter as “Sido,” whose first husband, Jules (by whom she had two children) died in 1865. In the same year, his widow married Captain Jules-Joseph Colette, who had been invalided out of the army in 1860 and had come to Saint-Sauveur as a tax collector. Sido bore two more children, a...

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(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette (kaw-LEHT) was born in Saint-Sauveur-en-Puisaye, a small town in southwest France, on January 28, 1873, to Jules-Joseph Colette and Adèle-Sidonie Landoy Robineau-Duclos. Jules-Joseph was a retired army captain turned tax collector, and his new profession led the family to Saint-Sauveur-en Puisaye. At first things went well, and Colette enjoyed a happy childhood in her easygoing, freethinking family. Jules-Joseph, however, was too easygoing; he was not very industrious, and he did not have much of a head for business. In 1890, the family was forced to sell its house and move in with Colette’s older brother Achille Robineau-Duclos, a doctor in a nearby village.

It was there, in 1891, that...

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(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Colette’s state funeral was a symbol of the popularity that her works had gained by the time of her death. Her numerous works of fiction were accessible and highly readable, yet they presented a unique perspective on everyday human problems and experiences. From the girlish figures of Claudine and Gigi to the lonely old women such as Léa, from finely drawn tragic figures such as Chéri to the almost human Saha, Colette’s characters are memorable individuals. Her twists on conventional love stories are imaginative and frequently more complex than their superficial simplicity and light tone would suggest.